Lawmakers will introduce a new bill on Monday prohibiting welfare recipients from using taxpayers' money to buy marijuana at pot dispensaries in their state, news sources reported on Saturday.
Reps. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., Scott Tipton, R-Colo., and Dave Reichert, R-Wash., told reporters that they will introduce the "Preserving Welfare for Needs Not Weed Act" on Monday, according to KDVR TV news.
If passed and signed into law, the legislation would make pot dispensaries unlawful recipients of money earmarked as food stamps. Marijuana dispensaries will be added to the locations that states must electronically prevent electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards from being used by recipients, according to Rep. Reichart.
The GOP lawmakers are reacting to a report last week that claimed about 20 individual marijuana dispensaries allowed food stamp money to be withdrawn at ATM machines inside of weed shops.
"It's one thing to legalize the sale and use of marijuana, but it's quite another to expect taxpayers to pay for mind-altering drugs for someone not able to pay for their own 'highs,'" said former narcotics investigator Gene McDermitt.
According to KDVR reporters, documents collected by the TV station revealed almost 60 transactions in which food stamp money was used to purchase pot. The reporters claimed the purchases totaled over $4,000.00.
Another report by a conservative magazine's website claimed that the amounts taken out using EBT cards to buy pot were as high as $400. According to the Government Accountability Office, average sized households obtaining benefits through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) max out at $462 per month.
This is not the first time Republicans pushed such legislation that was eventually signed into law. In 2013, the legislature overwhelmingly passed a similar bill outlawing welfare benefits being used to gamble at casinos, purchase firearms at gun shops or gun shows, and to buy alcoholic beverages at either liquor stores or taverns.
“It’s time to close this ‘pot shop loophole’ before it gets any bigger,” the three lawmakers wrote in a letter promulgated throughout the House of Representatives.
“This bill does not comment on whether it makes sense for states to legalize the sale of pot, as Colorado and Washington [state] have done,” the lawmakers wrote. “It simply says that, wherever pot is legally sold, welfare recipients shouldn’t be able to readily access welfare funds to pay for it.”
But McDermitt, who spent almost 25 years fighting a "war on drugs" is more blunt. "Who are these potheads who feel they're entitled to the 'sweat off the brow' of American workers, through the tax-and-spend government, to get their Jimi Hendrix Experience high? They're the same folks who commit welfare fraud and drive better cars than the poor schlubs working hard to pay their taxes that politicians use to buy votes from welfare cheats and now potheads," he said.